BERLIN: Revisiting the Wall

For residents of East Berlin, one dictatorship perished only to be replaced by another. The Topography of Terror exhibit shows what the Third Reich and the Soviet-dominated German Democratic Republic had in common — a foundation of terror.

This block-long stretch of the Berlin Wall is said to be the last standing in its original location. It’s at the Topography of Terror, which outlines how terror was systematically applied during the two dictatorships. Above you can see 6-foot reinforced concrete slabs anchored to the base of the wall. They made it difficult to push over the relatively thin wall from the west (left). Note the round top of the wall, which made it hard to get a handhold and pull yourself up and over.
At left, basement rooms where people were interrogated and tortured in what used to be headquarters of the Secret State Police, the SS (Hitler’s elite guard) and the Reich Security on Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse. In 1951, the building was torn down. The street was renamed Niederkirchnerstraße because Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse had become synonymous with blood, screams and disappearances.
Part of the Berlin Wall memorial. The only place where the wall exists with the “death strip,” raked sand that revealed the footprints of anyone who tried to make it to the wall. An armed guard would have been in the tower at left.
After the Wall fell, the area around Potsdamer Platz was rebuilt so quickly, reminders of the past were sometimes forgotten. Here’s one of the few remaining East German guard posts that accompanied the Wall.
Here’s the memorial to Günter Litfin, the first person shot by East German border troops while trying to escape at the Wall. The memorial, at the site of a former command post of the troops, is maintained by an organization founded by Litfin’s brother.
The Litfin memorial includes a schematic of what a command post looked like inside.

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